In the wake of a number of recent high-profile pipeline gas leaks / explosions in the United States and resulting uncertainty among U.S. pipeline operators over the status of more stringent measures to regulate their activity, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced new proposals last week that will update safety requirements for the country's 3,218,688-km natural gas transmission network. According to PHMSA the proposed rules provide pipeline operators with regulatory certainty, and responds to both Congressional mandates and outside safety recommendations for pipeline operators to proactively manage pipeline integrity matters.
"The significant growth in the nation's production, usage and commercialization of natural gas is placing unprecedented demands on the nation's pipeline system," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This proposal includes a number of commonsense measures that will better ensure the safety of communities living alongside pipeline infrastructure and protect our environment."
In particular, the proposed changes to gas transmission safety regulations are expected to result in fewer incidents, which could lead to a reduction in gas released into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases (GHG). The proposed rule is expected to result in net annual average reductions of 900-1,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide and 4,600-8,100 metric tons of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The rule also proposes changes to the way that pipeline operators secure and inspect gas transmission pipeline infrastructure following extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and flooding.
The PHMSA's proposal would moreover revise and strengthen federal Pipeline Safety Regulations by:
- Modifying repair criteria for pipelines inside and outside of high consequence areas,
- Providing additional direction on how to evaluate internal inspection results to identify anomalies,
- Clarifying requirements for conducting risk assessment for integrity management, including addressing seismic risk,
- Expanding mandatory data collection and integration requirements for integrity management, including data validation and seismicity,
- Requiring additional post-construction quality inspections to address coating integrity and cathodic protection issues,
- Requiring new safety features for pipeline launchers and receivers, and Requiring a systematic approach to verify a pipeline's maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) and requiring operators to report MAOP overruns.